Thank goodness we learned something from buying our first house and decided to pay a few hundred dollars for radon testing this time around. As part of our new home’s inspection, we paid a local radon company to conduct a multi-day test to ensure that dangerous levels of radon aren’t present (for any locals who are wondering who we used, we went with Radon Ease, because they don’t remediate, they only test- so there’s nothing in it for them to find radon).
Sure enough the readings came back above a 4… which means there were dangerous levels of radon present in the home – enough to call for professional remediation as the solution. But instead of that 2K investment falling on our shoulders, since we tested during inspection the sellers kindly agreed to fully remediate for us – and even did a follow up test to determine that the radon issue had been completely resolved. Talk about a money saver!
But let’s rewind to the good ol’ days when we learned our radon lesson the hard way. We opted not to pay the few hundred beans to have our first house tested during inspection, and just used a $15 test from Home Depot once we moved in. Horror of all horrors, our house was teeming with highly unsafe amounts of lung-cancer-causing radon (akin to smoking around five packs of cigarettes a day!) – which left us scrambling to pay thousands of dollars to remediate things without the help of the sellers (since we skipped that test option at inspection). It involved installing a semi-elaborate system in our crawl space that vents up through the house and out the roof to suck in and direct all of the naturally occurring radon from under our house through the pipe instead of letting it hang out in the inside air that we breathe. Tres annoying. But effective. Here’s more info on that debacle (and on radon testing and remediation in general).
Long story short, we considered it to be a (somewhat expensive) learning experience and we’re so glad we officially tested things this time around during our inspection period! The great new is that results came back suuuper low after mitigation (around .5, which is amazing – even lower than outside air). So to anyone living in Virginia (which is especially known for dangerous radon levels) or anywhere else with radon issues, we definitely recommend testing your house. Click here to see if your county lies in one of the red “danger zones” from the EPA’s map, pictured above. Even if it’s well past inspection or moving day, you can buy charcoal test kits at places like Lowe’s or Home Depot and it can save you (and your babies, pets, and family members) from inhaling the equivalent of a carton of cigarettes a day. Le gross.
Have any of you dealt with the house bummer that is radon? Let’s commiserate.
Map image courtesy of the EPA.
Psst- We went nursery crashing again over on BabyCenter. Click here to see that charming baby bedroom.
I made a point of pushing for the radon test when we bought two years ago in Hampton, VA because of the issues you had. Our real estate agent didn’t even know what radon was, so I am glad I heard about it from YHL! Luckily we didn’t have that issue, but better safe then sorry.
Dawn S. says
Congrats on catching that early instead of paying for your 2nd mitigation system in so few years!
We close on our first house tomorrow and didn’t pay for a radon inspection only because we knew the foreclosed house meant the seller (bank) wouldn’t pay for mitigation anyway. So we’re saving money on the inspector to do the home-kit test just in case we do have to shell out some beans for the mitigation afterward!
Our level came back around 3.5. I was REALLY worried at first, and spoke to the local radon officials for my county (I’d recommend that to anyone, they were so helpful). We haven’t done anything yet, and since the level was below 4, we couldn’t get the seller to do anything. So I expect that we’ll have to put in a remediation system for $2500 or so. But first, I’ll try sealing the cracks in the basement. Our Realtor said it was because the house had been closed up for so long, which may be true, but it was also summer. Levels tend to be higher in winter. Thanks for the reminder! I need to get on this pronto. After my initial freak out, my concerns fizzled. I live in western MA, and it is really common here too.
A house we almost bought (but didn’t due to many reasons) tested at 10.2!! I felt bad for the poor elderly woman who had lived there her whole life and had many health problems, several possibly related to the mold and radon we uncovered at inspection time. Agreed! So important to test and know!
Emily @ Merrypad says
This is completely horrifying (because I didn’t get one done), but what a good lesson about having the sellers pay for it. Thanks for sharing…
Adrienne B says
Here is a link to the EPA publications on Radon: http://www.epa.gov/radon/pubs/index.html
Be sure to check with your state government- they should be able to help you find a reputable contractor to install the mitigation system.
I’m so glad your sellers helped with the cost. When we bought our house 2.5 years ago and had it tested, it was way high. Our sellers told us they thought the whole Radon thing was a HOAX! Umm. yeah, not so much. We ended up footing the whole bill ourselves.
Jokes on them though, they bought the house right across the street from us and our whole neighborhood has a problem.
I live in Texas, which historically isn’t a high radon area, but again, better safe than sorry. There is a state program right now to provide FREE radon kits for Texas residents (there are also some other states listed too).
Go to http://www.drhomeair.com/ and select your state under “State Programs” and fill in your address!
Sara @ House Bella says
We paid for the radon testing during our inspection process. It came up high, too, and we had to seriously finagle with the seller to get them to put in a radon system before we moved in. She wasn’t keen on paying the whole cost, and it ended up that the buying and selling agent each forked up part of the cost in their commissions. Super nice, I’d say, because radon would have been a complete dealbreaker for me. Now we’re down around 0.7 (the original testing company – who also didn’t do remedial – came to test again after the work was done).
Definitely worth having checked during the inspection process! A few hundred dollars is way better than that big surprise down the road. Unlike your old house we actually had it piped ground level out the front of the house (the bedrooms are in the back of the house). Saved a bit of money on routing through the ceiling, and still just as safe.
WOW… thanks for the tip!
I did not have this done when I bought my house 5 years ago, but the new owners had the testing done this Fall and it was just under 4. I was so glad I didn’t have to pay to remediate it (I wouldn’t have had the money to do so), but I definitely would have fixed it if I was intending to stay there longer. I had never even heard of radon testing before the buyers asked for it.
Thanks so much for sharing this! We just bought a new home, and I have been meaning to have my husband test it out.
I am always learning something new from your blog. I would have never known to look for this.
Also, since I missed the first airing of you guys on Nate Berkus I am DVRing it to watch later since I’m at work thanks to Comcast having an app on iPhone that lets me control my DVR and change channels from afar so I can trick my bf. :)
The things you wish you knew before you bought… get it all checked out
We had two problems, the first one was not so big. We LOVED the big tree in our front yard and figured it looked pathetic because it was winter. Spring came, and almost no leaves popped up. We had a tree-expert (wonder what you actually call them?) come out who told us that our tree was dieing and could not be saved. Cost of tree removal and stump grinding: $800
Bigger mistake: When buying our home we were concerned about little cracks in the drywall, however our inspector confidently told us it was the settling of our old home. We let things slide, but two years later my worries got worse and I had an inspection done on the house: its sinking. Cost of repairs: $5,000
Our next home we will pay the fees to have it all checked out, but whats hurts the most is that I never knew a foundation inspection was free! At least we were smart enough to get our roof checked out…
Totally not gonna lie, I didn’t even know you were supposed to test for this! I checked the website you linked to and got to TN’s website but their free Radon testing kits are all spoken for so I’ll head out to Home Depot. I’m curious to see how bad it is, it shows our county as Zone 1. Thanks for posting this!
I came home today and my daughter was watching Nate and there you both were! I was so thrilled! Great job and congrats on your appearance, although I know it was a re-run. I was just coming in from the granite yard where I picked my new kitchen countertop! Can’t wait! Congrats on the new house and I can’t wait to see your transformations. Happy New Year!
Our County Department of Health gives residents free radon test kits since we are in a high risk area. It is worth calling or checking the website of your local Dept of Health to see if they offer them. The test kit, postage, and testing results were all paid for. Picked up one for our home as well as all of our extended families homes as well!
Oh how I hate spending money on things that sit in the dark down in the basement. We tested as part of our inspection process to buy our current home in coastal Maine. The seller paid for the new system and we got to use the cash for a new dining room set. Ah, healthy air to breathe and a place to sit for dinner too!
Ok, this freaks me out! I live in Iowa (a high risk state, apparently). We just bought a new home this summer and testing for radon wasn’t mentioned at all during the process! Thanks for this post – I’m going to go buy a at-home test!
How strange that you posted this today – I just emailed my husband this morning that we need to add Radon testing to our baby-coming-in-four months To Do List. Here’s a link to the Consumer Reports recommended test available on amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Accustar-AT-100-Testing-Please/dp/B001I8A0ZS
I just want to thank you for this reminder. We are house hunting in a high radon zone and I’ll definitely pay for the radon test!
Jenn L @ Peas and Crayons says
Thank you SO FLIPPING MUCH for posting this! I’m literally just about to hunt for my first house and I never would have thought to test for Radon. We live in North Carolina where the radon is high like in VA and i’m so glad I came across this post b/c its going to be such a huge factor in house buying!
Thank you x1000001!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Yup – I had a good realtor and house inspector who both recommended the radon test (which I gather is pretty standard around here in NoVa). My results were something like 4.2, so the remediation company came in and took care of business before I closed and moved in. They retested levels again after installing the radon-sucker-outer system, and all was well. I never would have thought to have this done on my own, so I’m glad I got good advice! I read up on it and that radon is some nasty stuff that you DO NOT want to mess around with.
The same thing happen to us when we bought our first house in Plainfield IL. The levels were a 19!!!!!! I freaked…and it cost to fix…we ended up pouring concrete in our crawl to kill two birds with one stone (the radon and more storage). Lesson learn!
PS it was your last post about radon that made me get the test in the first place. So THANKS you guys kind of saved my (and my dogs) lives!
Speaking of Doggy Steps…My mother-in-law bought me a brown leather ottoman for our bedroom. She is and always has been “heavily” involved in decorating my house (sometimes with permission, sometimes without). We put it in the bedroom and I honestly don’t know if I like it. PLUS I don’t want to have to break the news to her, so I’m debating on using it as a foot rest when we finish the basement…
Anyway, long story short…
Can I send you a picture of it and will you give me an honest to goodness answer. I don’t know if I don’t like it because: a. my mother-in-law bought it without input from me. b. The color c. the room is too small for it or d. all of the above.
Your input would be GREATLY appreciated!!!
Oops…I meant to put that comment on the Mister Ed (the bed) post. Sorry!!!
Feel free to post the pic on our Facebook page for feedback and opinions from readers (and us too)! Hope it helps.
I did the Kiddie Radon test as well because my house was as is and they didn’t pay for anything – it was a complete shack with many issues! But, Radon wasn’t one of them when I got the results.
Carley mentioned a house she was to buy the woman was having health issues from the house? Oh my goodness what kinds of issues does a house give you? Other than Radon we’ve heard about. Lead poisoning or something?
Carley mentioned radon and mold so those could definitely have caused the previous owner’s health problems. Of course lead paint or lead in the water or carbon monoxide are other house related dangers. Eeks.
When we bought our house in May, we chose to get a radon test done during the inspection. I’m so glad that we did! The levels were up over 8. It took the sellers FOREVER to agree to install the system we wanted (they didn’t trust our inspectors test and wanted to do it themselves) and it almost killed the sale. But now we’ve got the system installed that we wanted and it didn’t end up costing us anything. AND our house is safe now.
Interesting… not entirely sure, but I think radon testing is required in NJ. When my family moved recently, we had to do it in our own home, and the new home was also tested. Not sure if it was required or not, but there didn’t seem to be any question about it! Hmm.
I would post on facebook, but my mother-in-law would probably see. Can I e-mail it to you, instead? Sorry for being a pain!!!
How about uploading the pic to a photo sharing site like flickr or shutterfly and then posting the link for us here, so we can all hop over and see things and share our thoughts?
you two did great on the nate berkus show today!
renee iapaluccio says
interesting, i never even considered radon. we close on our new home next week & even though we live in a low risk area (according to the website you linked) i will be picking up a test kit and doing it anyway. thanks for posting about this.
Your subject is so timely. My husband and I first learned of radon when we bought our home in Denver. Sadly, we didn’t have it done during inspection only because we had not learned about the gas yet. We’ve done two tests, our first test was done in September, the levels were so low that we thought we could fix things ourselves by cementing some exposed dirt in our basement. After we finished we retested and our levels jumped, really jumped. I found out yesterday that we are at 4.0, yikes. I immedately called a list of state approved contractors to eradicate the gas in our home. Thank you for reminding all readers that it is so important to test.
Hi! Do you guys have any more reader redesign posts? I haven’t seen any for a long time..and those are one of my favorites! Just thought I’d ask. By the way, I love your new house and can hardly wait to see what you do with it!
We’ve switched over to sharing our own house trials and tribulations on the ol’ blog in more of a diary form (just like we did in the good ol’ days when we started YHL) but lots of readers share their amazing before and afters on our Facebook page, which is always lots of fun. One day we’d love to create a gallery on YHL where people can upload their before and afters and share the details. Here’s hoping we have time to code that someday!
What a great idea!! Here’s the link: http://ottomanhelp.shutterfly.com/
PLEASE let me know your thoughts!!! Also, keep in mind that I am NOT a decorator, but I do my best. :) Thanks!!!
It looks like such a nice place for storage and stuff! But if you think it’s too much brown or makes the space too cramped maybe there’s another spot for it? We use storage ottomans everywhere in our house! From putting one in a corner of the den with hooks over it (to create a mini mudroom) to using one at the dining table to create bench seating- we love sticking them everywhere! Hope it helps.
Nikki Kelly says
My bf and I bought our town house in July 2009, and we opted to have a radon test done. The radon was 14.0. We were worried that the bank would not cover the cost of the mitigation system ( the home was foreclosed) but to our surprise they did it. But unlike yours ours is on the outside of our house so we had to paint it. It’s not the most attractive thing but I’m not sorry to have it.
Unplanned Cooking says
Our house tested positive for radon, too, so we made it part of the agreement the seller would pay for a radon removal system. It was expensive!
My grandparents lived their whole married lives (and TEN KIDS!!!) until they died (too early) in a house with insane radon levels. I remember it finally being taken care of when my grandpa had already died (brain cancer) and my grandma was in hospice (also cancer.) My uncle also died of cancer and my mom and some of her siblings have had multiple bouts with skin cancer. It’s a scary thing that’s VERY real.
We have the same type of thing in our house that ventilates it out of our basement. I hope this eventually becomes a thing of the VERY DISTANT past for everyone!
My husband and I just bought a house in Iowa (a red-zone state). Our realtor had a pre-written radon rider that we put in the offer. Before we even tested/inspected, we said we would pay for the test but asked the seller to pay any potential mitigation. We ended up negotiating it to split the cost between us, and then our house tested low and didn’t need mitigation. Still, it was nice to have that all figured out at the front end.
where can i find information like this for canada? i havnt been able to find any like this. if anyone knows please let me in on it. thanks!
Maybe try google? Or just get a charcoal test kit from your local home improvement center and go from there?
Any readers out there know what you do if you have radon in a 100-year-old rental apartment? My landlord kind of doesn’t care. Probabaly gonna move soon, but am curious if anyone knows if this is something landlords are supposed to deal with?
I never really thought about it, but I would think that unsafe levels would need to be mitigated or at least disclosed by the landlord. Does anyone else have info for Robin on the subject of apartments?
I live in Pennsylvania, apparently also notorious for high levels of radon. Thing is, I never new what radon was until we were in the process of buying our home two years ago (life-long renter prior). When I went through the home inspection and we were in the basement, I asked the inspector what this unfamiliar pipe contraption was and he told me it was our radon remediation system. Ok, cool, I thought, and we didn’t give it another thought. Well just this past September we heard a strange noise coming from the basement and found that the radon fan was no longer working. I called a local radon repair company and, long story short, they told us our system was outdated and not up to code and they could not repair it as is because the fan is no longer allowed to be in the basement because it was found that systems like the one we had often failed and pushed the radon right back into the basement. Not cool considering our main family/TV room is in the basement. So we got a test from Lowes and our level was 45!!!!! Ack! We had to have the whole system replaced to the tune of $750 (luckily not the thousands it seems to cost in Virginia). We’re pretty upset that our home inspector didn’t tell us our system wasn’t up to code as I kind of thought that was something that home inspectors should know (but that’s another story as other issues have turned up since we moved in that the home inspector should’ve informed us of). Ugh…the perils of the home-buying process. But, at the end of the day, we have a little more peace of mind now that the new system is in.
How have I lived 39 years and not known about this!? I bought this house in 1997 and the inspector didn’t mention it. I will re-test again just for peace of mind. Thanks for the heads up.
@Andrea: I think its nice. (Though I have one similar but mines smaller so I may be bias) BUT if you don’t have any use for it and aren’t 100% sure if you like it, then maybe nicely tell your mother in law it’s not your style and tell her you’re selling it on Craigslist or something.
Be sure to check your radon levels at least annually, even after remediation. When we looked into radon remediation for a home we made an offer on, we were told by the remediation company that the system was only guaranteed to be effective for one year. Yikes!
Great point! We’re sure to retest every winter (since the house is sealed up a lot more than in the warmer months so we’re sure to pick up the highest level to be on the safe side) and thanks to the mitigation system in our last house it never varied more than .1 either direction, which was really great when it came to peace of mind.
Since radon levels vary from day to day and even from month to month and during the different seasons, the 3 day tests that are done for home buying purposes are not very accurate (and the Home Depot kits even less so). Case in point: when we bought one of our homes, we had the house tested, and the radon level was only 2…no system needed. However, when we went to sell the house only a year later…the level was 8! So guess who had to pay for remediation for the new buyers? Radon testing should be done over a much longer period of time to be accurate. Who knows that over time…the level could’ve been acceptable after all… or even higher? We’ll never know.
So sorry to hear about your radon fluctuation issue! We spoke to a few radon experts (who administer those expensive long-term tests) and they all suggested that if you’re going to DIY it, you should test the house in the winter (when it’s super sealed up and not ventilated like it is in the warmer months) to get the highest possible reading, which is good to know for peace of mind (if the highest reading is still well under the recommended mitigation number you’re in good shape).
After mitigating we tested our house every single winter for four years in a row and it never varied more than .1 in either direction, which was nice a consistent. And the new buyers brought in a radon expert during their inspection who got the same reading with all of his advanced technology that we did with our charcoal test! Perhaps it helped that we always stuck to the “closed house condition” rules on the charcoal tests and followed the timeline and mailing directions as closely as possible? It also might explain your fluctuation if you tested once in the summer or during a snap of nice weather when doors and windows are opened frequently (which would clear out radon and make the levels a lot lower) and then tested again when the house was more sealed up in the winter or along a span of rainy days or something. Hope it helps!
Radon Mitigation- Us Too. When we bought out first house we too were told about the Radon levels from our realtor, thank goodness!!! We put it in the contract that we required a Radon test, which came out high of course, we paid half and they paid half.. luckily. They installed it and hopefully helps our house for years. Well, it will last forever, lifetime. However you have to replace the fans in there say every 2 years or so. Thank you for putting this out there for more people to realize why you should have your radon change!!! P.S. CAN’T wait to see how your house is coming along!!:)
Here’s what we learned the hard way about radon: we’ve owned 3 houses and the first two tested high for radon, and both sellers paid up for a mitigation system. With our 3rd house, the test came back borderline during the inspection, so we didn’t make an issue of it. But i made a mental note to test again down the road. We tested again last spring to find that our radon level was above acceptable levels. We had a radon company in October install the first “footer” (the PVC pipe that goes into your foundation) and fan, etc. They had to install 3 different footers (!!) and a super high-powered fan to get the levels to be acceptable over 6 weeks of trying. They were ethical and only charged us once and kept coming back until they got it right, but it was stressful for us and for them. We will need to test again in Jan or Feb to see if it is “maintaining.” Lesson learned: test during your home inspection and if there is any question at all, deal with it with the sellers (or pass on the house) at that stage. Given all the other house issues we’ve had in 2.5 years, I wish we would not have bought this house at all!
When we bought our first house our realtor nicely forced us to get a Radon test saying almost 80% of the homes in our town had high radon. We ended up doing it and they ratings were high and the previous owners paid for all of it!